Monday miscellany: outfit of the week, better sleep & more

I’ve been finalizing my travel wardrobe (post coming soon) and trying to wrap up a bunch of tasks before my London trip. Not to mention getting ready for Halloween. 🎃 Our neighborhood is a trick-or-treat Destination, and we usually get between 400-600 kids knocking on our door. The Young Cousins (well, in their early 30’s) are going to come over to help me hand out candy. We may do a group costume, stay tuned…

Spruced up

I recently included this top in my recommendations for cool palettes. But this spruce color is also found in the Autumn palette. Here it’s styled for an Autumn, with warm-toned accessories.

If you’re a Winter, just swap out the brown accessories for black, and replace gold jewelry with silver. (Both the earrings and rings are also available in silver.)

More spruce tops & sweaters:

Sleep aid

For the last few years, I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with a good night’s sleep. And these last few months, the additional stress of Doug’s illness and passing really did a number on my sleep cycle. I may fall asleep but will pop awake after an hour or so, and not be able to drift back off. Or, it takes me hours to relax enough to fall asleep at all.

I follow all of the “good sleep hygiene” practices: getting regular exercise, going to bed at the same time every night, avoiding heavy evening meals, putting away the electronics at least an hour before bed. My doctor recommended Melatonin, but it had no effect. Cannabis gummies knock me right out, but I can’t travel with those. 😜

I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, but a friend suggested I give chamomile tea a try.

Organic chamomile lavender tea.

A few weeks ago I picked this up at the supermarket, and have been enjoying a cup lately in the evenings. To my surprise, it really does help me relax and fall asleep more easily. And I’ve actually come to look forward to my nightly “cuppa.” I’ll be bringing a stash of these tea bags along with me.

Have you found anything that makes a real difference when it comes to sleep?

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  1. I’m working on my sleep hygiene too. Exercise and 1/2 -1 cup of coffee a day, and staying away from screens an hour before bed have helped the most, but I’m still not having a full nights sleep. I’m going to try drinking the tea tonight. I’ll be interested to see if there are others that have found something that works.

  2. Right now, fortunately, I sleep fairly well and do follow those recommendations you mention. Even I was still working in my 60s I did gonggriugh a dtresdful period where sound sleep was elusive. A warm bath at night with herbal tea did help a bit. After that – Retirement and no deadlines to meet was a huge help!

  3. Breathwork has made a significant difference in my sleeping pattern. If you google it (breathwork for sleep, or something like that) there are a number of suggested breathing patterns and I honestly think that it doesn’t matter what you choose, as much as it does that you do it consistently. Focusing on your breathing, and counting as you do it refocuses you mind and keeps you from focusing on the million thoughts that keep you awake. I now fall asleep in about five minutes, as opposed to the hour or more that it used to take. I still find it harder to discipline myself to do it if I wake up in the middle of the night, but it works for that as well and I am getting better at using it then.

    1. Ellen, I completely agree. I have been practicing a simple routine taken from the book Breath by James Nestor: if I’m anxious and my mind is racing, I plug my right nostril and breathe slowly, 5 seconds in, 7 seconds out. I can bring my heart rate down 20 bpm in a matter of a couple of minutes. If I’m just trying to relax, I simply breathe through both nostrils normally. Counting the ins & outs automatically turns it into a meditative exercise without even meaning to.

      Susan, you are a such a wonderful human being, sharing your brilliance and recently, such personal tragedy with us. I’m no stranger to loss, and I feel especially saddened by your loss of Doug. I’m continuing to send all my good energy and bright light directly to you.

  4. Hello, Susan… I would normally not share this wacky suggestion for getting back to sleep, but you asked — so here goes. After I hit age 70, my sleep patterns became more erratic. Counting sheep, etc. never helped. BUT! I’ve found an alternative that works for me: I do mental wardrobe planning (e.g. imagining a capsule wardrobe for a city get-away, or a two-week vacation in Italy, etc.) !! I’ve used this same strategy at night, substituting menu planning for a holiday event or big birthday party. Apparently by staying tightly focused on a narrow topic helps eliminate interference from my many day-time worries and anxieties. I don’t know if this approach would make sense for anyone else, but it truly does help me fall asleep again, at 2:00 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. or whenever… (I hope this doesn’t label me as a nut-case… I’m sure it sounds like a crazy approach to intermittent insomnia!) Since you are the Doyenne of Wardrobe Planning it might work for you — or not!!!!

    1. I do something similar! I do the ABC’s with different subjects – fruits, cities, colors, animals, etc. It redirects my thoughts but still keeps me engaged.

    2. Haha—for me it’s listing names in alphabetical order. I’ll say, girls names that came from boys names… Alberta, Brianna, etc… Popular 70s names for boys… Same kind of focus, and I rarely make it to Z.

  5. Magnesium cream – check it out as it’s a real game changer in getting a good nights sleep without any tummy issues from magnesium!

    1. Chiming in to say Yes to magnesium. The cream is good for aches and pains but I also take it by mouth, as it doesn’t cause me any issues. Sorry you haven’t been sleeping, wholly understandable. I have also had to cut back to two glasses of wine per week, total, and find that a brisk outdoor walk/hike is usually helpful.

    2. Yes to magnesium (in whatever way you can use it) – many women are deficient anyway, so not a bad idea.

      And here’s a trick I learned from a psychologist when I had such a hard time sleeping due to an incredibly stressful time in my life:

      Lie in bed and basically bore yourself to sleep. Recount in minute detail everything that you did that day. For example: I woke up at 6 am. I got out of bed. I turned on the light. I put on my sweats and slippers. I opened the blinds. I washed my face. I brushed my teeth….. You get the picture – you bore yourself with trying to remember every small insignificant detail – and most often, you fall asleep before you get past noon!

      Wishing you the best for the hordes at Hallowe’en – it’s fun but 400 is over the top! Glad you have help.

    3. I read this yesterday, and really considered my response until this morning. I’ve used magnesium cream too. I started with a tube of this product by Neom.

      It was very effective for me. It is strongly scented, but I have very sensitive skin, and had no issues with it. It has a calming lavender basil and jasmine scent, and I certainly did some deep breathing while applying it! I found that the scent wasn’t lasting, and by morning seemed to be gone.
      I really loved the cream, but decided to try a less expensive brand. I’m using Dr Teal’s sleep lotion.

      I think it’s working. Seems very gentle since they offer a formula for children too. It has a nice scent, less strong than the Neom, but is slower to absorb. I learned that magnesium is something that is in epsom salts, so maybe a scented epsom salt bath before bed would be a nice ritual too.
      Here’s to more good sleep!

  6. Good morning from TN…..where I, too, have battled the sleep issues you described and have also tried various things to no avail…. melatonin included. But a podcaster I listen to mentioned Natrol 5 mg extra-strength/fast dissolve melatonin, and she was so convincing regarding how significant a game changer it was that I purchased it! In the past I’ve done the melatonin gummies with zero affect (which was also this lady’s story) so I really wasn’t too overly optimistic! But I just had to mention it to you because these have made SUCH a significant difference for my sleep! I’m not even sure why…. maybe the fast-acting aspect, where they dissolve so easily?? I have only been taking one and I’m consistently getting 7 hrs a night… that’s huge for me! Anyway…. just had to throw that out there!

  7. Two things: Consider asking your md to do the home test (you wear a simple monitor for a night) for sleep apnea. If positive, then s/he either prescribes a cpap/apap (adaptive) device or has you do an overnight at a sleep center, and then chooses a device.
    Secondly, explore herbal teas, including different chamomiles. offers exquisite teas (herbal, medicinal, blends for calming anxiety, floral, etc). Just brewing it is a relaxing activity. And for travel, it is easy to just buy your own organic tea bags and put the loose tea in those. Voila!

  8. Susan, I am also heading to London and Paris soon. I’m looking forward to your packing list. I was going to take unisom for the flight but may now switch to the tea suggestion. Thank you.

    1. Hi Julie, here’s another suggestion for the flight: original formula Dramamine. It makes me just drowsy enough to nod off, and also prevents motion sickness in case of turbulence.

      1. Sounds like you take Dramamine sparingly, but just a reminder that Dramamine is an anticholinergic which is a class of drugs tied to dementia (along with benzodiazepines). Both the American Geriatrics Society and numerous studies advise against prescribing these medications to seniors whenever possible. Many OTC sleep aids and “PM” versions of medications contain these, as does Benadryl.

        1. Many thanks for this heads-up on the link between sleep aids and dementia. The sleeping aid I have been taking quite often, “Unisom”, usually works for me but it contains one of the drugs on the warning list ….so out it goes! I will be looking at some of the recommendations from others here today. Thanks again and to all here for your help.

  9. I have not slept all night since 1985 after first baby. Guess Im used to it, but I have a bladder the size of a walnut. So Im up all night every 2-or so hrs to ……….. Anyway, I don’t find falling asleep easy as my mind plays runaway train and goes over everything 3 times. I plug in earplugs and listen to a very familiar audiobook. One that I love, is not scary, just kind of soothing. Right to sleep. For a while…… It needs to be the same one over and over so it is familiar and soothing. (Mine at the moment is Hail Mary by Andy Weir). Also quit eating early!!! No food after 6 pm if you can swing it, even sooner.

    1. Had to laugh at this…my mother, never a good sleeper, once told me that once you have a baby you never sleep well again! There’s some truth in that.

    2. I also listen to a good audiobook to put me to sleep and keep me asleep. It is like having someone read me a bedtime story. I especially love the voice of a gentlemanly Brit.

  10. I have challenges with sleep and also follow the same protocols and good sleep hygiene – When I MUST get back to my regular routine, I take one “Z-Quill” capsule (dosage is 2) and wear ‘Mack’s’ brand silicone earplugs. I use the orange ones meant for children, rather than the clear ‘adult’ size. They filter out just enough noise and distraction.

    I will try this tea…I hope you find a winning combo, Susan!

  11. I went through the same sleep issues when my husband died 2 years ago. The stress of his illness and death was intense. Chamomile tea, a lovely scented candle, time and grace helped. You will get there.

    1. I had the same issues when my husband died many years ago. I don’t think I ever slept. It does get better but it takes time. Wishing you a wonderful trip to London, I was there earlier this year;)

  12. Hello Susan
    I also have sleep problems as well usually due to overthinking things past, present and future. I was having some pretty strong leg cramps and visited my local pharmacist (in Australia) who recommended Magnesium Night by Swisse. I bought it in the powder form, orange flavoured and have a scoop each night in water and I must say it worked like a charm. The additional benefit was the calming of my overactive mind and a very relaxing sleep.

  13. For me, magnesium supplements (a powder I get at Whole Foods and mix with a glass of water in the evening), made a huge difference. There do not appear to be large, sound studies backing this up, but there are some indications it can help and it’s viewed as quite safe. So worth a try, and not expensive. NYT article; gift link:

  14. A few thoughts on sleep aids: CBD gummies (without THC) have helped me fall and stay asleep (I use Equilibria brand), and Delta-8 THC is legal in all 50 states and has about the same effect as cannabis (you can even order it online) . I’ve travelled internationally with both, but I stick with CBD on the plane. I’ve also recently learned about tart cherry juice as a sleep aid. I take about a tablespoon mixed in water and it really helps – I was shocked! I got this brand from Amazon:

  15. I use cannabis gummies, too—it’s hard when you can’t travel with them but I’ve also had luck with Delta-9 and 9 CBD gummies–in fact, use in combo with lo-dose THC gummies it works well—the CBD seem to help with staying asleep. Thanks for sharing!

    1. My issue has been getting back to sleep in the middle of the night. I use either one earbud or a headband with small flat wireless speakers (Amazon), and listen to a YouTube sleep video—there are so many! The ones with a faint sound of trickling water and gently moving tones work very well to put me back to sleep.

  16. Susan, huzzah for a lovely and effective ritual. Over the many years since menopause, what has worked for me has been anti-anxiety medication, which I take occasionally, and supplements which purport to diminish anxiety. Several of the latter were effective but one proved to contain a medication so was withdrawn (Udream), one contained a substance the FDA said could not be marketed as a supplement (Kavinace) and one went out of business (Remrise) and a British device, the Zeez sleep pebble which does help. Pfui! I started one which claims to lower cortisol (Cortisol Manager) which may be working but as to melatonin, which has not helped, just read in an article written for pharmacists that 2 mg of melatonin in timed-release form is effective for “the elderly” so will try that.

  17. I too had a huge problem with sleep. In desperation I tried this insomnia tea sold at a local farmers’ market and it has been a game changer! It helps you gently relax and fall asleep, stay asleep and then wake up refreshed without that gross hung over weird feeling. My husband, the biggest skeptic in the world, loves it too. He actually went online and bought us a big bag, he is such a fan now. ( based in San Diego)

    1. I’m interested in these teas for my daughter, who has sleep issues as well as migraines, but I’m always cautious about possible interactions with medications. Since herbals & supplements are unregulated, I think it requires extra caution….

      1. Jill, Consumer Lab is excellent at testing and evaluating supplements, a great comfort to those who want to avoid prescribed drugs when possible.

    2. Just ordered the chamomile-lavender, is that the one, Bonnie? In any case, it sounds good and it’s nice to order from a small business. Thanks for mentioning it.

  18. Warm milk and honey at bedtime works for me like a charm. Maybe because my mother used to give it to me as a child when I had bad dreams. My sister goes to sleep with sleep stories on YouTube. They are quiet, slow and dull. She says she never gets past the first few sentences.

  19. Wow! I thought the approximately 100 trick or treaters who come to our door was a lot.

    Love all the sleep suggestions given by you and your readers. I’m going to have to try some of them.

  20. I understand your sleep issues. When my husband I just could not sleep. My Dr gave me Temazepam which was a life saver but it’s addictive so I’ve tried not to up the dosage. I also take Valerian and it helps. love your outfit, safe travels!

  21. Smith Teamaker makes a lovely and delicious tea called Lullaby that really helps me relax and sleep well. I first tried it 3 years ago during heart failure while waiting for surgery. Find it online.

  22. Definitely chamomile tea helps, plus a warm bath before bed. Lately I’ve added ashwagandha to my routine and find it helps, too. Poor sleep seems to be a thing after menopause.

    Happy Halloween!

  23. An alternative to the cannabis gummies is CBD oil, which has made a huge difference for my sleep. I take it before bed and it minimizes or eliminates those middle of the night wake ups. But I don’t travel internationally with it, as I don’t know the laws elsewhere. It doesn’t contain THC, but I don’t want to risk having to explain that. I was able to buy it in Spain, though I haven’t found one I really like there. Here in the US I use Lazarus Naturals. Good luck finding options that work for you!

    1. Bette, there are many white noise apps available for your phone, which is what I use when I travel. That way you can’t forget to pack it, and you also don’t have another item to try and fit into your suitcase!

  24. Good morning: the 4-7-8 breathing technique helps me sleep. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and release for 8. Hope this helps. Mary

  25. I still have no clue whether I am winter, autumn or something else when colours are concerned. I am doing pelvic floor exercises in the morning and when I lay down in bed to go to sleep. As it is a lot of focusing, concentrating and breathing, it is like yoga. I sometimes have to really concentrate to do the 10 exercises otherwise I will be asleep when I have only done 5.

  26. How amazing to get so many kids in your neighborhood for Halloween – where I live it is pretty quiet, with most kids and their families going to the activities on the main street of our town.
    I love the spruce color that you have featured and I will definitely look to add it to my wardrobe.
    Sleep has been a real challenge for me, and I’ve tried all sorts of things. Now I listen to a relaxation app – sometimes more than once – to get to sleep. I even use that app when I travel! If I can’t get to sleep, or if I wake up around 3am and my mind is overactive, I’ll get up and have some herbal tea. Sometimes just getting up out of bed and disrupting the overactive mind seems to help.
    Happy Halloween!

  27. Had forgotten how well that particular tea works to let me fall asleep and stay asleep. Think the combination of the chamomile and lavender makes it smell and taste good as well. Hope you adjust to your new situation and find many sources of joy along the road.

  28. I have chronic insomnia and nothing has helped me as much as the Calm App Sleep Stories! When my mind is on a hamster wheel, replaying unpleasant thoughts over and over, I turn off the light and put on a Sleep story. Following the story gets my mind off the bad stuff and I’m sound asleep before the story is done. The Calm app is free to Kaiser members. Others can do a free trial.

  29. I have suffered for years with insomnia.Lately I have sleep better with a probiotic called Óptima for 50 + and a nightime spray from bach flowers.

  30. I have thought a LOT about insomnia and sleep, and one thing I have honestly found helpful is Dr. Guy Meadows’ The Sleep Book (you can also take online classes at The Sleep School, or download an app), which uses the framework of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. He says that sometimes trying to hew strictly to sleep hygiene guidelines can wind up making a person even more anxious and sleepless, which makes SO much sense to me — this is why you can toss and turn all night, only to say the heck with it … and then immediately fall asleep only 20 minutes before your alarm goes off. Anyway, it might be worth checking out. (I am not a paid promoter! Just an insomniac who’s thrown a million sleep books across the room.)

  31. I can definitely relate to your sleep issues, Susan. The one thing that reliably preps me for sleep is reading in bed until I feel sleepy.

    I believe that my issues are somewhat post-menopausal, but also because I am burdened by stuff that I am waaaaay behind on — record-keeping + sorting out a room where my old work things have been left, and once I tackle them, I will feel a lot better…

    I am also wondering if white wine is affecting my sleep quality: I had a 4 ounce glass last night, but had an incredibly restless night after my first REM cycle last night…

    I love taking decaf and herbal tea bags with me when I travel: it makes your hotel stay more comfy.

  32. Susan,

    I am a true winter and bought the jade green top. It is stunning! I love it!

    Thank you so much for your blog. I have learned a lot and incorporated it into my life.

    The top is now sold out

  33. We also live in a destination Halloween neighborhood. Actual busses show up. All the neighbors take the job seriously, and the entire street is decked out. One neighbor even has an annual haunted house in his driveway. 600 kids is a drop in the bucket. We start buying candy in July and stockpile until October. The first year we were here, we had 800 pieces of candy and ran out much earlier than the neighbors did. Fortunately, the local police patrol here, so there isn’t much trouble. I remember this being “the trick or treat” neighborhood from when I was a child living in a different city. I guess I had forgotten that when we decided to buy here. LOL

  34. I’ve travelled domestic and international with CBD/THC gummies – never had a problem. Packed a few loose gummies tucked in with my regular medications and/or vitamins (easy to hide a few cannabis gummies in with vitamin gummies) for my carry-on and put larger unopened tins in my checked bag. Security is looking for weapons and bombs, not a perfectly reasonable woman of a certain age trying to get a decent nights sleep!!

  35. Hi Susan. This may be an unwelcome response, since the current trend is pro “natural” and anti Big Pharma, but if this might help you or someone else, I’ll risk it. I have dealt with varying degrees of insomnia my entire adult life, which became intolerable after menopause (long ago; I’m 71 now). After all the sleep hygiene rituals and every natural remedy known to humankind made not the tiniest dent in my problem, my doctor suggested I try a medication. For over five years now I have taken 1mg. lorazepam (Ativan) one hour before bedtime, and by the time I get into bed I am relaxed enough to drift off relatively quickly and stay asleep for at least 6 hours, usually 7. I have never had a need or desire to take a higher dose–1mg. still works exactly as it did the first night I took it. It is gentle–I can easily awake from sleep if I need to. And it has no amnesia aspect, as Ambien and other Z drugs do. In addition, there is no groggy “hangover” the next day, as with over-the-counter antihistamine types. … I hope you find relief soon. Chronic sleep deprivation is awful.

    1. Thanks, Linda, this relieves some of my fear. My ob/gyn prescribed .5 mg of lorazepam years ago. I usually split a pill but am too nervous to take it often. She says that it is like spitting in the ocean. I am aware of the danger that it can lose effectiveness with time and that it may have long-term effects but it never fails, in contrast to the effective non-prescription remedies I have used which fail in times of great stress.

      I have also found that gabapentin, prescribed for sciatica, helps sleep and mood, although not as much as lorazepam.

  36. Hormone replacement therapy. I am 69 and have had a very difficult time with menopause. I used patches for 2 years starting 3 years after my last period. They helped a lot. Then my insurance company stopped paying for them and I couldn’t afford the meds. I weaned off the patches and was slammed with rebound hot flashes. The insomnia was awful. Five years after I discontinued the patches, I learned that the latest research indicated that the old advice of using estrogen in the smallest dose for the shortest amount of time possible left many women like myself with poor quality of life. I found a new doctor and went back on HRT. The new doctor still seems to subscribe to a lot of the older advice. I have had to insist that the dose she prescribed was inadequate. I am 15 years past the date of my last period and I am still working to get an adequate dose of hormones. Currently, I average 2 hot flashes per night 5 nights per week. I am shopping for a new doctor and hope I can find someone who is willing to up my dosage.

    Obviously, I have no idea whether or not hormones will be of help for you, but I know that many menopausal women are greatly helped by them. it’s something to think about.

  37. I have struggled with busy brain when I go to bed for years. Someone on a TV show suggested humming a song with NO words to another character. It works for me! I hum “Ode to Joy”.

  38. I swear by a relaxation/meditation practice called yoga nidra. It helps me get to sleep and can be used if I wake up too early.

  39. When sleep is elusive, I plug into one of my hypnosis or yoga Nidra podcasts. I’ll listen to them if I wake too early (this is my main sleep issue). Every now and then I take a 1/2 mg melatonin (the small dose usually works for me) or chew half a gummy. They usually help me fall back asleep faster if I wake in the middle of the night. All I really need is 6 hours of good sleep to feel good.

  40. Hi Susan,
    Tea also consistently works for me, while gummies, melatonin, etc., have not. I’m partial to Traditional Medicinals’ Nighty Night or Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime, and find that a cup, or two, not only help me to feel relaxed and more ready to fall asleep, but if/when I wake up later in the night, I am more easily able to simply fall back asleep, which is usually difficult for me to be able to do. Sometimes you can find Sleepytime lavender, which is lovely; and if you are prone to seasonal allergies and related congestion, I find that Sleepytime Sinus Soother helps me to be able to get a good night’s sleep even when congested. While I am a morning coffee drinker, I try to limit/avoid caffeine in the afternoons – I notice I am more anxious when I have coffee in the afternoon – and will sometimes have an afternoon cup, or two, of Traditional Medicinals’ lavender chamomile, or Twinings’ decaf Lady Grey. I also find that when I drink a nighttime tea, not only do I sleep better, but I wake up easily the next morning without any of the associated grogginess that I feel when I take something like NyQuill. I like that tea is natural and basic. For me, nighttime tea along with a chapter or two of an old familiar and well-loved book, is the winning combination. I’m trying to also get more in the habit of rolling out my yoga mat and doing some gentle stretching while listening to a George Winston album for a bit. My father passed away in December, and starting about this time of year, evening stretching while listening to George Winston’s December album is very comforting to me in the evenings.

  41. Susan I take Tylenol P.M if I have a problem with sleeping. 1 tablet is enough for me although the suggested amount is 2tabs. I like the fact there is no feeling of hangover the following day.